The Art of the Nonfiction Book Proposal

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photo by Leo Michal
photo by Leo Michael

Finished a fiction proposal, then a non-fiction proposal, sent both to my agent then just returned from a writer’s conference, (that’s me walking down the hallway to a session) With proposal zoomed off from the agent to the publishers, said a prayer, took a deep breath, and now I’m moving on to the next project.

In the meantime, since I had so much fun writing those 30 page proposals (not), I wanted to share this excellent article (yes, excellent) I found online about writing non-fiction proposals. (Permission to repost given at the end of the article). I really like the website, Writer’s Relief. Tons of great how to articles there for any writer.

THE ART OF THE NONFICTION BOOK PROPOSAL

Unlike fiction books, nonfiction books, such as self-help and how-to books, do not have to be completed prior to submission to literary agents and editors; nonfiction is sold to editors via a book proposal. It’s important to know what to include in a nonfiction book proposal.

In general, the nonfiction book proposal is designed to give editors a well-organized, detailed sales pitch describing what your proposed book is about and how it will make money for the publishing company.

An additional bonus is that writing a book proposal forces the author to organize and focus the project. The book itself may go through many changes depending on editorial input, but the proposal should follow a generally accepted format.

Note: Memoir Proposals. Even though a memoir is a nonfiction book, you don’t need to write a proposal for your true story. Literary agents do not want to read a proposal for memoir. Generally, a memoir is handled the same way as a novel: the book must be complete and the writer must submit sample chapters.

IMG_7795Here’s how to write a book proposal for a nonfiction book to submit to a literary agent or editor so that you can get your book published!

COMPONENTS:

Title Page

In your nonfiction proposal, you should first include your name and contact information with an approximate word count and the proposed title of your work. Make sure your main title describes the subject matter of the book to aid in keyword searches, and don’t rely on subtitles to convey vital information—subtitles are often dropped in computerized listings and library databases. Note: the title you choose is your working title, as publishers may elect to change it.

**Optional: Summary (also known as the Overview, Synopsis, or Executive Summary) – 1 page maximum

Begin with a very short description of your book’s basic premise. Whatever makes your book stand out should be highlighted in the first few sentences. This is the “hook,” so make it interesting and unique; powerful yet concise.

Capture the editor’s attention right off the bat, and make it clear what you’re selling. If the editor or literary agent has to hunt around for the point of your book, he/she is likely to toss the proposal aside and review the next proposal in the towering pile.

Chapter by Chapter Outline1 to 2 paragraphs per chapter

Create a dynamic outline by highlighting each chapter’s major points. Each chapter synopsis should be no longer than one paragraph or two—you don’t want to give too much information but you don’t want to give too little either.

Emphasize each chapter’s unique and/or important function in relation to the rest of the book. By the time the editor has read this outline, he or she should have a clear idea of the overall book.

The Market For Your Nonfiction Book

This section should include information about the book’s intended audience and why the book addresses the needs of that particular audience. Make sure that your market is broad (as in “women ages 30-60″ or “people who buy cars”), and provide as many demographics of your targeted audience as possible. Include observations about current trends that favor your book and highlight what makes your book unique.

Also include information about the competition. If there are other books out there on the same subject, yours had best offer a new or original take. Identify current books that are similar, and explain how yours fills a specific niche. If there are complementary books out there, show how your book can be positioned to the publisher’s advantage.

Give the editor or literary agency enough ammunition to sell your work!

Author Information In A Nonfiction Book Proposal

This is where you list your education, writing credentials, contacts, experience—anything that makes you uniquely qualified to write this book. If you don’t have a journalism degree or a list of publishing credits, highlight other things that show you have what it takes to tackle the subject.

For instance, you may be a parent of a special-needs child, and, although you have never been published, your experience qualifies you to offer a unique perspective—assuming that your writing is up to par. If you have an author website, consider mentioning it here.

Your background (including your publishing credits, your experience and expertise, your media coverage, and the following of readers that you’ve built up) is often referred to as your platform. The stronger your platform, the better! Writer’s Relief can help you build your publication credits!

You will also need to outline your own promotional ideas and resources to help market the book. Include information about affiliations, contacts, or endorsements you may have lined up. Do you have a prominent person willing to write the foreword? Media contacts? Web sites, bookstore appearances, newsletters, and possible sequels or spin-off information should be included in this section. To use the example above, you may be a member of the Autism Society of America, and with the contacts you have made within that organization you can offer greater promotional opportunities.

Specifications Of Your Unfinished Book

This is where you outline an approximate word count, the number of chapters, and an estimated completion time frame. If your book will contain a number of charts, photographs, or illustrations, say so. You may also describe the general format you envision. However, be prepared to be flexible when it comes to length and format—the publisher will have the final say.

Note: A full-length nonfiction book usually contains 9 to 15 chapters of average length. Don’t submit an outline for a book that contains less than 9 chapters. Make sure you have enough material (and time) to fulfill this obligation before you propose it.

Table Of Contents

Quite simply, this is a list of chapter titles to give the agent or editor an idea of what will be included in your book.

Sample Chapters

If you have already begun the writing process, send one or two completed chapters (Chapters 1 and 2 are preferable).

OTHER TIPS

Your book proposal should be similar in style to your proposed book. In other words, if your book is meant to be humorous and lighthearted, make sure your proposal is written in the same style.

Make sure the proposal is edited and proofread within an inch of its life. Literary agents and editors admit to passing over potentially great ideas if they have to wade through a sea of errors and typos and coffee stains.

Always include a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) for responses. Your material will be recycled. Or know the etiquette for submitting online.

When formatting, we recommend using a 12-point, easy-to-read font like Times New Roman or Arial, with one-inch margins all around, and left justification.

We love educating writers about ever-changing industry standards. Let us know if we can help you with any or all elements of putting together a stellar book proposal.

REMEMBER TO CHECK OUT OUR LIST OF WRITING CONTESTS and ANTHOLOGIES! You won’t find a better list anywhere (AND IT’S FREE!) of upcoming anthologies, special-themed journals, and contests.

This article has been reprinted with the permission of Writer’s Relief, an author’s submission service that has been helping creative writers make submissions since 1994. Their work is highly recommended in the writing community, and there are TONS of freebies, publishing leads, and writers resources on their website. Check it out!

 

More than green beer…

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St. Patrick had a message…

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and St. Patrick wrote a song….

Enjoy the day the Lord has made and I suppose a little green beer wouldn’t hurt either!

 

 

 

Lent: What does it Mean?

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The word Lent stems from an Anglo-Saxon word meaning “lengthening of days.” www.Biblegateway.com says:

Lent is the span of time in the church calendar that starts with Ash Wednesday and ends with Easter Sunday. Ash Wednesday commemorates the beginning of Jesus’ 40-day fasting and temptation in the desert, and Easter Sunday commemorates Jesus’ resurrection from the grave after his crucifixion.

Lent, then, is generally observed as a time for Christians to reflect, repent, and pray as a way of preparing their hearts for Easter. It is commonly observed by many Christian denominations–Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, and others–although not every Christian church or denomination does so.

Even though it’s cold and snow still covers the ground (at least here in Kansas City), the lengthening of days is happening. Daylight savings time begins this Sunday. Days should get warmer and longer, even though winter seems like it will never go away.

St. James Anglican Church, photo by Holly Michael

St. James Anglican Church, photo by Holly Michael

Even if we can’t see it now, there are stirrings in nature, small buds appearing, seeds preparing to burst into beautiful flowers.

Photo by Holly Michael

Photo by Holly Michael

Like Spring, Lent should be a time of stirring, growth, a time to lengthen ourselves, to stretch ourselves to be better, more Christ-like.

To put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24   

During our Ash Wednesday service, Bishop Leo Michael, our pastor at St. James Anglican Church (who’s also my husband) said we shouldn’t boast about what we are going to give up for Lent because then we already get our reward. He advised to do these things in secret.

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matthew 6:6

So, I’m not saying anything about my small sacrifices, but I will announce that I’m welcoming the season of Lent in order to strive toward becoming a better me.

Like seeds and tiny buds are stirring and growing, I hope, by Easter, to be strengthened, lengthened, and bloomed into someone a little more Christ like.

Photo by Holly Michael

Photo by Holly Michael

“That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God.” Colossians 1:10

Have a blessed Lent Season!

Author Christina Rich and The Guardian’s Promise

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1526172_645045618875647_1370039046_nAuthor Christina Rich’s book, The Guardian’s Promise has been released today: March 1st.

Very happy for Christina, a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. I’m thrilled to have this up-and-coming author on my blog today. Christina will share a little bit about her faith walk and also about her soon to be best-selling novel: The Guardian’s Promise. Take it away Christina Rich:

20140227_112031There was a time when being a Christian meant I had to go to church every Sunday and Wednesday and every other day church was open. It meant I wore skirts. It meant I bowed my head and closed my eyes when I prayed. It meant reciting the sinner’s prayer every time I heard it and asking for forgiveness for all the things I had already repented.

To me, being a Christian was a bunch of rules and regulations. It was filled with the how tos and the how not tos.

Remember the Samaritan woman at the well? She came to draw water from the well and met Jesus. We all know how the story goes. Jesus asks her for a drink of water, which was akin to him asking for water from a leper. It just wasn’t done. And then, if that wasn’t enough, Jesus tells her that she should be asking him for a drink of water. Whoa! This poor woman, no doubt, about fell over. But it gets better. Jesus informs her of her indiscretions, as if she didn’t know. Surely this women is in awe. Who wouldn’t be?

But she realizes Jesus is a prophet, and maybe if she allowed herself to hope a little, he was the Messiah. But she couldn’t hope, because if he was then that meant she could never drink from the cup he offered. Not only is she a Samaritan, but…

Our fathers worshiped in this mountain; and you say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.

In essence, your rules, your laws will not allow me to worship you, Lord because I must worship here, while you are in Zion.

No, she didn’t say that, but I quite imagine her line of thought followed in a similar vein. I can also imagine:

Jesus dipped his chin to hide a smile. My dear, dear woman, do you not understand? “Believe me, the hour comes, when you shall neither in this mountain, nor at Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you know not,: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.”

Her cheeks turned rosy with shame. Disappointment burdened her heart.

But an hour will come, even now, when true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeks such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”

Gathering courage to speak, she inhaled a shuddering breath. “I know that Messiah will come, who is called Christ: when he comes, he will tell us all things.”

Jesus squeezed the tassels of his tallit in his hand. Father, thank you for times such as this. “I am he.” (Based off John 4)

Ari, the hero in The Guardian’s Promise, was raised a Levite. Much of his life was dedicated to studying the law. It was filled with rituals and rules, but then Athaliah came into power and destroyed the temple. Altars all over Judah were destroyed. His way of life changed. The loss of the temple represented losing God. Ari struggles with the loss and often wonders if God forgot about him.

9780373282579 OfficialThis is one of my favorite scenes from The Guardian’s Promise.

A soft breeze rustled his garments, bringing with it the sweet smell of the henna blossoms hedged around the vineyards. He saw Mira, pure and innocent, in his mind’s eye, leaning over one of the small flowers inhaling the scent just as she had earlier in the day. His life’s blood quickened with the need to touch her fingertips. To press his lips to her brow. If only for a second.

Ari gripped the neck of his tunic in anguish and threatened to rend the garment in two. Even when Jehoiada sent word of his imminent freedom, Ari knew he could never return to the temple and the duties he’d held before Athaliah’s murderous rampage. Life as he had known it had ceased to exist when he had left the gates of Jerusalem. And as hard as it had been to abandon his beloved city with all haste in her time of trouble, it would be even more difficult to leave this village and the friends he’d made.

Blowing out a breath of air, Ari released the fabric and prayed for peace to settle his anxious heart. Although he had not forgotten even one day to meditate on the Lord’s law, at times he doubted whether God had remembered him. Had the Lord abandoned him altogether? Had the Lord forgotten Joash? Had the Lord forgotten His covenant with King David?

“Do you remember your promise to David, Lord? ‘Your house and your kingship shall ever be secure before you, your throne shall be established for evermore.’” He shook his fist at the heavens before bowing his head in remorse.

Questioning God’s faithfulness did not set well in his soul. He knew once the questioning began, it would soon fester and eat away at his heart. Ari fought the urge to bury his face into his hands. Instead, he stared into the great void and waited for some sort of reprimand from God Himself.

The quiet was only interrupted by the bleating of a goat. Still, he waited, for God’s peace to cloak him. Just as he was about to give up and seek his sleep, a star streaked across his vision and faded into the dark night. He recalled a psalm memorized from childhood.

The Lord doth build up Jerusalem: he gathereth together the outcasts of Israel. He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds. He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names. Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite. The Lord lifteth up the meek: he casteth the wicked down to the ground.

If the Most High, in all of His greatness, cared to name even the stars and knew their number, would He not remember Ari?

“Forgive me. The unknown is like torment.” He paused. “If You hear me, O Lord,” his voice a mere whisper to his own ears, “grant me Thy guidance. Thy wisdom. Courage. I am Your servant, Most High, humbled before You.” Whether bound to another man’s house or in freedom. He inhaled the warm, henna-scented night air. An ache throbbed in his chest at the fragrance so much a part of Mira. Could he love her? Could she love him? Of course, it did not matter if God did not will it. Closing his eyes, he bowed his head. “I will go where You lead.”

God spoke to Ari in such a clear, yet gentle manner. How like God. In what seemed liked Ari’s most trying time, when God seemed so far away, He was showing Ari that worship wasn’t about burnt offerings and sacrifice, it about a relationship in truth and in spirit.

***

Thank you Christina,

For a great historical, inspirational read, I highly recommend: The Guardian’s Promise by this very talented author, Christina Rich.

Her second novel, The Warrior’s Vow will be released in July 2014 by Love Inspired Historical

Blog: threefoldstrand.com

Christina’s Facebook

Inspirational Story in Support of Life: Claire Culwell

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Here’s a short amazing clip about a beautiful young woman who–after discovering her birth mother–found out that she survived the abortion that took the life of her twin brother.

Claire Culwell shares her story in honor of him. While her twin and other babies lost to abortion cannot be brought back, the beautiful girl’s story shows how a life saved from abortion can be an amazing witness of God’s love.

I will not be silent because each mother and child are in the same place my biological mother, my twin and I were in 22 years ago and I am here to say THERE IS HOPE and there are options! - Claire

Follow Claire on Facebook

Check out Claire’s blog

 

Rich Maffeo’s: My Very Own Frankenstein Monster

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rich maffeoRich Maffeo is one of my favorite Christian authors. He blogs over at The Contemplative Catholic Convert. I found a lot of spiritual wisdom in his well-written, inspiring blog post today and asked his permission to reprint it here.

Here’s the blog in its entirety:

I published this essay in my book, Lessons Along the Journey. I re-posted it to my blog about a year ago. The incident below occurred decades ago, but from time to time I talk with people who, like Robert, cannot (or choose not to) believe God’s great love and forgiveness could be directed toward them. To everyone else, yes. But not to and for them.  After a more recent conversation along these lines, I thought to re-post this again. There are still many Christians who need the reminder.

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I think that if God forgives us, we must forgive ourselves. Otherwise, it is almost like setting up ourselves as higher tribunal than Him. — C. S. Lewis

 MY VERY OWN FRANKENSTEIN MONSTER

          The  shadowy figure darted behind a tombstone and peered steadily into the darkness. When he was satisfied no one had spotted him, he thrust his shovel into the fresh grave — again and again. Soon, his spade thudded against the casket. A few minutes later, he lifted the corpse onto his shoulders and grunted.

Dr. Frankenstein would be pleased.

I’m surprised I still remember the 1950s horror film. Dr. Frankenstein zapped the cadaver with a bolt of electricity and brought the dead back to life. Unfortunately, the monster ended up terrorizing the countryside.

Have you noticed how our culture seems preoccupied with death? Surf the TV most evenings or browse the sci-fi section in online streaming sites. The titles may surprise you. Even some Christians seem preoccupied with restoring life to things that ought to stay dead.

Robert is a good example. He has a bad habit of digging around in graveyards — mostly his. He called me some time ago in a state of depression, “How can God forgive me?” he pleaded. “You don’t know what I’ve done.”

That was not the first conversation I’d had with him over the same theme. I’ve lost count of the times Robert has called for assurance of God’s forgiveness. And each time I remind him of Scripture’s promises, he responds with his characteristic, “Yes, but.”

As he spoke, a mental image of the Frankenstein monster formed as Robert again dug up his past — a past covered by Christ’s blood. I watched him piece together one old sin after another, assembling them into a monster that terrorized him and his family.

This time, though, I could not find fault only with my friend’s needless despair. With seamless precision, my thoughts propelled me toward my own graveyard where “Yes, but” is etched on several tombstones.

Like Robert, I know Scriptures that assure me of God’s forgiveness. So why do I dig around in my past, piecing together my own monster? Why do I permit the creature that Christ put to death be resurrected and wreak havoc on my life and hurt my relationship with God and with others?

I know why. Sometimes I doubt our Father’s trustworthiness. I am skeptical that Christ’s sacrificial death could cover my despicable sins. So, I revive my past, lifting each sin onto my shoulders as if to say, “Lord, if you really knew what I’ve done, you would never forgive me.”

On the other end of the line, Robert’s litany of reasons why God was angry with him gained momentum. With each passing thought, he dug himself deeper into the Yes, but pit until I couldn’t take anymore.

“Robert,” I interrupted.

He stopped talking and I reminded him again — myself as well — of the promises which stand more sure than Earth itself, of promises more secure than any anchor, of promises that transcend all of our “Yes, buts”:

“So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). “[Therefore], now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).

Scripture after Scripture, promise after promise swirled though my mind and slipped across my tongue. I don’t know if they helped Robert, but I know they helped me to once again place my monster back into the crypt. By God’s grace, I will leave it there. Life is too short, and the laborers too few, to waste time and energy carrying a dead man around on my shoulders.

God says to the penitent: Forgiven. Satan whispers: Guilty.

Whom will we believe?

Here’s a link to Lessons Along the Journey, for more great spiritual readings.

lessons

BOOK CONTRACT! YAY!

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I’ve been hinting at it, but didn’t want to share the news too soon. Now I can because I finally got the signed book contract in the mail! Doing a happy dance! YAY!!! My first book contract!!! And with a major publisher! Thank you Harvest House Publishers! Thank you editor, Kim Moore, who listened to my pitch at the ACFW Writer’s Conference last fall and had faith and confidence in me and in this project!

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So why is Jake holding the contract with me?

We are co-authoring this devotional book! So excited to be working on this project with my son.

And, I’m still working on my novels. Finishing up final edits on #2 and working on #3. Thankful to God for this gift and hope for more book contracts in 2014!

 

Go Chargers! Go Jake!

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- photo Chargers.com

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

Praying for and rooting for Jake and the Chargers today as they play the Broncos in Denver!

Jake Update and a Very Cool Romans 8:28 Situation

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Haven’t blogged much lately due to holidays and writing commitments, but I have been splashing photos and news on Facebook about Jake (my NFL player son).

A fantastic Romans 8:28 story! (And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.)

Even if you saw this on Facebook, here’s the story behind the story.

We’ve all had those moments when life is going great, plans are coming together, sun is shining, and bluebirds are singing on our shoulder, then BAM! We get slammed with the unexpected. Instead of bluebirds, feels like life is giving us the bird.

Happened like that a few weeks ago for Jake. He was cut by the Houston Texans. As a mom, my heart went out for the uncertainty he felt regarding his career and future. (And given his career is in the NFL, unfortunately he’s had these moments before).

I prayed for him, asking God for His perfect plan for Jake’s career and life (as I do for all of my children.)

Side line note

Secret to life as I know it:

1. Pray Submit yourself, your situation to God.

3. Trust. Trust God can work all things for his good. (Romans 8:28)

4. Thanks. No matter what your feeling, give God thanks for hearing your prayer. Because He’s God and you’re not, trust He will take care of things and don’t forget to thank Him.

Then let go!

That secret to life has never failed me. And it’s what both Jake and I did.

Then, BAM! Jake was picked up by the Kansas City Chiefs on practice squad. I live in Kansas City! How cool is that? What are the chances?

While I relished in the mom role again (doing Jake’s laundry and feeding the big boy), as always, I know that God’s plans are always even better that we can imagine.

So….after only one week in Kansas City, The San Diego Chargers signed Jake onto their roster. While I loved having him here, I kind of thought he’d get snapped up fast by a team who needed his skills.

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And of course, the move is great for his career.

Imagine, being cut from a losing team, then getting picked up by a winning team now in the playoffs. Jake is playing more and has a greater role in the offense with the Chargers.

Jake (#81-Tight End) had a fantastic game this past Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals. Really good plays and outstanding blocks! Chargers won!

See how happy Jake and his teammates are. Photo from http://www.chargers.com

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So, this Sunday Jake will play in Denver against the Broncos. Please keep him in your prayers and cheer on #81 and the Chargers!

houston2And back to Romans 8:28…God can work all things to the good, even for a kid diagnosed with Type One Diabetes in high school who wondered if he’d even be able to continue playing football. God has a plan for this guy, who also spends his time encouraging youth with type one diabetes.

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Isn’t he cute? Follow Jake on twitter @sugarfreejb82

Isaiah 40:28-31 says, Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.  He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;  but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Coolest Christmas Card Ever

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 I love this Christmas card (found on Jacquielawson.com).  Have you seen it? Watch the expressions on the angel’s face….

http://www.jacquielawson.com/viewcard.asp?code=2007134554829&source=jl999

I meant to do a devotional every day, but…well…life doesn’t always go as planned and sometimes I have to let go and move on without guilt. ;-)

Holly

 

 

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